North Carolina Advances To ACC Semis With Tough Win Over Miami
March 5, 2005
By DAVID DROSCHAK
GREENSBORO - The nation's second-best offense had to rely on its defense and rebounding down the stretch to avoid an upset in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Saturday.
Top-seeded North Carolina overcame a lackluster first half and a season-low 29 percent shooting to beat Miami 64-57 and move on to the semifinals.
It was a major scare for a team that has now won 11 straight -- a streak that includes two wins over five-time defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Duke.
"We've got to get refocused and play a lot better tomorrow," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
The Tar Heels (25-3) ran the ninth-seeded Hurricanes out of the gym 83-52 on Jan. 17, but didn't take their first lead in this one until halfway through the second period, and didn't take the lead for good until 2:12 left on a 3-pointer by Ivory Latta.
"Miami was ready for us," Hatchell said. "The game in Chapel Hill was probably their worst game they played all year. That really motivated them.
"Our players remembered the Miami we played in Chapel Hill, a team that didn't get off the bus or the airplane. We kept telling them that Miami was a much, much better team than when we played them. Miami was out to prove a point - and even though we won the game - I think they did."
North Carolina came in as a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1997 and looked nervous and tight from the start, missing its first nine shots and turning the ball over 10 times in the opening 8:21.
Meanwhile, Miami (13-16) built its lead to 10 points in the first half and led 53-47 with 5:20 remaining before falling apart down the stretch.
"We thought we could pull an upset today. We worked hard for 40 minutes but we just came up short," said Miami coach Ferne Labati said.
The Hurricanes got a game-winning shot at the buzzer to edge Georgia Tech in the tourney's opening game Friday, but there was no upset this time for the underdog, getting just two baskets and four free throws over the final 8:08.
"We heated it up a lot more," Hatchell said of her team's defense late in the second half. "That's what we can do.
"At the beginning we were too lackadaisical with our defense, they were getting some good looks and they were gaining confidence. We did not play this game with a sense of urgency, except for the last 3-4 minutes."
Latta finished with 19 points, while Erlana Larkins, Camille Little and La'Tangela Atkinson combined for 33 of UNC's season-high 57 rebounds.
"To win this game, with the turnovers we had and to shoot the percentage we did, I thought we showed a lot of character to pull it out," Hatchell said.
ACC scoring leader Tamara James finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out with 1:19 left.
"We never thought we had it wrapped up until there was no time left on the clock," James said when asked about Miami's six-point lead with five minutes left. "We had to keep playing with intensity because they were coming at us hard."
The win marked the eighth time in Hatchell's 19 seasons UNC has won at least 25 games in a season.